Saturday, December 13, 2008

Going Green

No, I am not referring to an elected official. Green is the new buzz word in New Jersey government, referring to anything about sustainable, healthy communities. It means a lot for the future of Plainfield. That is why, come January, I will be working with my City Council colleagues to move Plainfield in the "green" direction.
There are many aspects to sustainability:
  • preserving open and public spaces
  • growing the local economy and keeping local money in the community
  • local jobs for our residents
  • energy saving buildings and vehicles
  • recycling
  • transit oriented development
  • walkable downtowns
  • teaching our young people to live sustainably

One of the first steps is to do energy audits of Plainfield's public buildings. This is a really good deal for Plainfield as the audit will lead to saving money every year. Money wasted on heat and air-conditioning leaking through windows, doors and poorly insulated walls can be re-invested in services that residents need, or tax relief. We will ask the Public Schools, the Housing Authority and the PMUA to join the city on this initiative. Along this line, we need a better plan for selecting city vehicles, ones that are fuel efficient.

We have already taken some steps in the right direction with energy savings. Look for Plainfield and other communities to pick up the pace in 2009. We can't afford not to.

Solar panels could be in Plainfield's future. Last Monday I attended a meeting to organize Union County towns for a group purchasing arrangement. Solar technology has improved to the point where the up front cost of the panels is recovered in about 7 years in the Northeastern USA. Under a creative new financing arrangement, a "purchase power agreement" would eliminate all costs for purchase, installation and maintenance of the panels. Plainfield would still save money on the monthly energy bills but we would share some of the savings with the solar panel installer, who would own and maintain the panels. Plus, having a group of towns and school districts do this together would help us negotiate a better deal. I spoke with School Superintendent Dr Gallon and he is interested in exploring this with the city.

Going green is not just about acting locally to help the planet. Its about making Plainfield a better place to live, work and visit. Creating local jobs for our people reduces traffic congestion and greenhouse gases but more local jobs also strengthen our tax base and stimulate local businesses. Each aspect of sustainability is connected in a synergistic way.

Imagine this: we hire an energy audit firm for our municipal and school buildings. The contract states that Plainfield High School students will taught to participate in energy audits. They also learn about the growing green economy and green jobs. Then they go home and help their families save money on the PSE&G bill.


Anonymous said...

I have heard a lot of talk over the years of creating a new municipal complex. A recent redevelopment plan also called for relocation of the City Yard. Any new construction should include energy savings measures, but retrofitting existing buildings with solar panels should be done only if they are expected to have a few more decades of usefulness.
As for plugging leaks around windows and skylights, that should be done at once.

Colleen Gibney said...

Another potential green initiative: working to attract sustainable light manufacturers and science-based green start-ups. There is likely to be increased Federal R&D funding in these areas in 2009-2010. Existing companies who wish to 'green' their products (R&D) and processes, or to reduce their energy use may be eligible for State and Federal programs as well. Could we envision a green energy start-up 'accelerator' or incubator site in Plainfield?